Page by Page Books
Read Books Online, for Free
The Life, Crime and Capture of John Wilkes Booth George Alfred Townsend

Letter IX: The Executions

Page 1 of 9

Table Of Contents: The Life, Crime and Capture of John Wilkes Booth

Next Page

Previous Chapter

Next Chapter

More Books

Washington, Friday, July 7th.

The trial is over; four of the conspirators have paid with their lives the penalty of the Great Conspiracy; the rest go to the jail, and with one exception for the remainder of their lives.

Whatever our individual theories may be, the great crime is ended, and this is the crowning scene:

It was a long and dusty avenue, along which rambled soldiers in bluishly white coats, cattle with their tongues out, straying from the herd, and a few negroes making for their cabins, which dotted the fiery and vacant lots of the suburbs. At the foot of this avenue, where a lukewarm river holds between its dividing arms a dreary edifice of brick, the way was filled with collected cabs, and elbowing people, abutting against a circle of sentinels who kept the arsenal gate. The low, flat, dust-white fields to the far left were also lined with patrols and soldiers lying on the ground in squads beside their stacked muskets. Within these a second blue and monotonous line extended. The drive from the arsenal gate to the arsenal's high and steel-spiked wall was beset by companies of exacting sabremen, and all the river bank to the right was edged with blue and bayonets. This exhibition of war was the prelude to a very ghastly but very popular episode--an execution. Three men and a woman were to be led out in shackles and hung to a beam. They had conspired to take life; they had thrilled the world with the partial consummation of their plot; they were to reach the last eminence of assassins, on this parched and oppressive noon, by swinging in pinioned arms and muffled faces in the presence of a thousand people.

Tired of reading? Add this page to your Bookmarks or Favorites and finish it later.

The bayonets at the gate were lifted as I produced my pass. It was the last permission granted. In giving it away the General seemed relieved, for he had been sorely troubled by applications. Everybody who had visited Washington to seek for an office, sought to see this expiation also. The officer at the gate looked at my pass suspiciously. "I don't believe that all these papers have been genuine," he said. Is an execution, then, so great a warning to evil-doers, that men will commit forgery to see it?

I entered a large grassy yard, surrounded by an exceedingly high wall. On the top of this wall, soldiers with muskets in their hands, were thickly planted. The yard below was broken by irregular buildings of brick. I climbed by a flight of rickety outside stairs to the central building, where many officers were seated at the windows, and looked awhile at the strange scene on the grassy plaza. On the left, the long, barred, impregnable penitentiary rose. The shady spots beneath it were occupied by huddling spectators. Soldiers were filling their canteens at the pump. A face or two looked out from the barred jail. There were many umbrellas hoisted on the ground to shelter civilians beneath them. Squads of officers and citizens lay along the narrow shadow of the walls. The north side of the yard was enclosed on three sides by columns of soldiers drawn up in regular order, the side next to the penitentiary being short to admit of ingress to the prisoner's door; but the opposite column reached entirely up to the north wall.

Page 1 of 9 Previous Chapter   Next Page
Who's On Your Reading List?
Read Classic Books Online for Free at
Page by Page Books.TM
The Life, Crime and Capture of John Wilkes Booth
George Alfred Townsend

Home | More Books | About Us | Copyright 2002